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Breast Cancer Awareness | Carrying the Torch: Advocate Continues Her Mother’s Legacy After Three Decades | Breast cancer


WINDBER, Pa .– When her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 56, Michelle Boyd was devastated.

“I went through normal emotions,” Boyd said. “I was pissed off. Crazy. Why? Why did this happen to our family?

Eventually, she began to channel these emotions in a positive direction by raising money for breast cancer support and research in memory of her mother. She did local fundraisers and participated in events through a national foundation for about eight years.

In the meantime, Boyd learned more about breast cancer and advocated for awareness among his friends and community. She started having annual mammograms around the time her mother was diagnosed, although she was still in her twenties.

She had been to different facilities to get her mammograms over the years, but found something special when she first visited the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center in Windber, she said.

“What an incredible facility,” Boyd said. “We are so lucky to have it in our own backyard. From the moment you walk in the door, they make you feel like the only patient – you are their family.

After experimenting with the patient-centered approach of the Joyce Murtha Center, Boyd began directing all of his fundraising efforts to the Windber Center, which is part of the Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center in Windber. There were ceramics and painting festivals, and cake decorating gatherings.

Erin Goins, director of the breast care center, said Boyd’s efforts provide more than additional funds to help patients who cannot afford care.

“She’s a connection to the community at large,” Goins said. “Whenever she hosts an event, she doesn’t just fundraise, she raises awareness as well. It’s so humiliating to have someone who wants to give back.

The energy Boyd provides is inspiring, Goins added.

“The staff at the center try to keep our emotional calm,” she said. “However, we struggle in private with each patient’s story when they are diagnosed. It can become difficult at times to stay positive due to the nature of what we do, but it is because of people like Michelle that we are inspired to want to keep doing our best to provide care.

Looking to “do more”

One of the big fundraisers is an annual golf outing in memory of Boyd’s mother, Helen Birus. This year’s Somerset Country Club event was the fourth she’s hosted with the help of her husband, Scott Boyd, and their sons, Travis and Logan. This is the third event in Somerset.

When they decided to launch the outing, they set the date at Oakbrook Golf Club near Jennerstown. They spread the word through phone calls to family and friends and through social media posts.

“With 15 minutes of calling and social media, we had 80 people,” Boyd said. “We were sold. After the first year it’s pretty easy with people coming back.

In addition to attracting golfers, the family was able to offer raffle prizes at golf events through donations from businesses and other supporters.

The family lives in the district of Lorain. Michelle and Scott Boyd are the owners of Scotty B’s Tavern, 324 Ohio St.

This year’s fundraiser has taken on new meaning as Michelle Boyd’s best friend is in her second battle with breast cancer.

Diagnosed at 35, the friend thought she had conquered the disease. She is now 41 years old and the cancer has returned, spreading to other parts of her body.

“It’s heartbreaking and it encourages me to do more,” Boyd said.

As part of the Color Me Pink Run / Walk on October 23, Boyd is hosting a basket raffle to expand the benefits of the event at the Joyce Murtha Center.

The 5K run and 1.5 mile walk begin at the Breast Care Center and take place through the streets of Windber, with “pink stations” where volunteers spray pink spray cans on the clothes of willing participants.

Knowing that funds raised for the Joyce Murtha Center support cancer patients in the local community is a fitting tribute to his mother, Boyd said.

“Your best defense”

Helen Birus grew up in the Woodvale section of Johnstown and moved to Moxham when she married Matthew Birus.

A housewife, Helen contributed to the family’s income, working part-time at the Old Kopriva Market in Richland and selling her homemade pierogies and baked goods.

Boyd said the family are still tracking health care needs such as checkups and screenings, in part because his father had a number of health issues.

Helen Birus had her regular mammograms, but discovered the cancer herself between screenings.

“It just showed up and it was very aggressive cancer,” Boyd said.

Her mother died in 1989 and Boyd said she was amazed at the progress made in treating breast cancer since then.

“We didn’t even know what type (of breast cancer) my mom had,” she says. “Back then it was, ‘You have breast cancer. Here is your treatment. “

Because of progress and her personal connections, Boyd is a strong advocate for breast cancer awareness.

“I encourage people to get tested,” she said. “Know your body. If anything is wrong, see your doctor immediately.

Men should encourage the women in their lives to get tested, she added.

“Early detection is your best defense,” Boyd said.

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